ARLINGTON -- Saying the Rangers needed a "new voice" in the dugout, general manager Jon Daniels decided to change managers and dismissed Jeff Banister on Friday.
Don Wakamatsu has been named interim manager for the rest of the season. Wakamatsu will get consideration to keep the job full time, but the Rangers are expected to conduct a thorough search going forward.
"As we spent time evaluating the Major League club, it became clear to me we would benefit from a change in leadership," Daniels said. "Let me say this, Banny was the right person for the job when he joined us in 2014. Ultimately came to the conclusion that we are in a different spot than when he was hired. Largely due to that, we felt a different voice was needed and appropriate as we are in a different position and slightly different direction."
The Rangers won division titles under Banister in 2015-16 and he was American League Manager of the Year in 2015. But the Rangers fell to 78-84 last season and are 64-88 going into Friday night's game, having lost 16 of their last 22 games.
"Ultimately, it's a cliché, but there are times you are looking for a new voice of leadership," Daniels said. "I don't care to get into any specifics that are talked about or rumored about. Jeff did a very good job for us. Ton of passion, energy and care for everybody involved and we made the decision a new voice was needed."
Banister, the son of a Texas high school football coach, had an intense, direct, no-nonsense style of leadership. He believed strongly in fundamentals and playing the game right, and he was not afraid to communicate his feelings directly. The Rangers' decision to make a change suggests his leadership style may have run its course with the players and organization.
"I want to thank Rangers ownership and Jon Daniels for giving me this opportunity," Banister said in a statement. "We had some great times here, but it doesn't last forever. I also want to thank the coaches, field staff, and especially the players who made it an honor for me to wear the Rangers uniform. And to the fans, I can't tell you how much I have appreciated your support and kind words over the last four years. I certainly regret that we were not able to make a deeper playoff run for you in 2015 and 2016.
"Certainly, I am disappointed that I was not able to finish the job. But this has been the experience of a lifetime."
Third baseman Adrian Beltre said he didn't expect Banister to be dismissed on Friday, but the Rangers players knew it was a possibility at the end of the season.
"I guess they wanted to let the players know they're going to go a different direction, and they didn't want to wait," Beltre said. "We've been short on what we want to accomplish the last couple of years. It's not Banny's fault, everything that happened, because we didn't play that well, but I guess they wanted to go a different direction, and that's the first move that he wanted to make."
Beltre said he had no issues communicating with Banister.
"It's just obviously, different players, different coaches have different ways of communicating and expressing what they want to do," Beltre said. "For me, it's just to make sure that you get players together, find a way to get every player comfortable, communicate well, everybody pull to the same side, and have that ability to find a way to win ballgames.
"I know that managers don't play, but sometimes you need to put the right pieces in the right spot to make that happen and find a way to get the best out of players."
Regardless of the voice or leadership style, Banister faced a daunting task with the Rangers this season. Daniels admitted in Spring Training that the Rangers weren't "all in" as far as competing for the postseason. The Rangers took a tepid approach to the free-agent market and tried to be creative in putting together a pitching staff.
They fell out of contention early. The Rangers were hit hard by injuries and the pitching staff struggled all season. The rotation was a big weakness as their starters are 42-63 with a 5.45 ERA. They opened the season with a rotation of Cole Hamels, Doug Fister, Martin Perez, Matt Moore and Mike Minor. But Minor is the only one left as Hamels was traded to the Cubs, Fister was lost for the season with a knee injury and Moore and Perez are now in the bullpen.
The Rangers have tried to get by with Bartolo Colon, Yovani Gallardo, Andrew Hutchison and others but with mixed success. Rookies Ariel Jurado and Yohander Mendez are getting September starts, but significant injuries to other top pitching prospects have also inflamed the Rangers' situation.
The bullpen was also gutted with trades involving Keone Kela, Jake Diekman, Jesse Chavez and Cory Gearrin, and injuries to Matt Bush, Tony Barnette and Chris Martin.